They certainly can.
See this post here. There isn’t a better summary we could come up with about the dangers study groups can present.
Yet, there are legitimate reasons to gather outside of church that can be uplifting and serve God’s purposes.
Assembling together in conferences outside of church allows for:
- Fellowshipping on the doctrine of Christ,
- Studying the scriptures in fellowships and families,
- Teaching as opposed to debating,
- Performing Priesthood ordinances such as Sacrament and Baptism (see here and here and here), and
- Serving others and sharing our means to relieve the poor.
As long as the group doesn’t replace our individual duties to study things out on our own and gain salvation from God on our own, groups can be a source of inspiration and fellowship. Without a group, we cannot bare one anothers’ burdens and mourn with those that mourn (Mosiah 18:8-10). These group meetings do not have to be within church meetings alone. And, just because getting together as a group outside of church has its pitfalls, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done in the right way as well. Close friends and family can and often do worship together in righteousness (Matthew 18:20), without regards to LDS Church jurisdictional constraints.
To find such a fellowship or learn how to start your own, see here. A link to the fellowship locator will remain in the sidebar as well. A fellowship that does not encourage apostasy from the Lord cannot be called an apostate group (for a scriptural definition of apostasy, see Mosiah 35). However, some LDS Church leaders mistakenly equate disagreement with the ever-changing church handbook of instructions to be equivalent to apostasy, so beware of such leaders should you wish to also meet with a fellowship.